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Listening Guide to Salt Peanuts by Dizzy Gillespie and His All Stars

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Published on Oct 21, 2010

Was bebop a music of revolution or evolution? Those who take the former view argue that this genre's radical departures from the stylistic norms of swing music — faster tempos, difficult, angular melodic lines, more active and prominent rhythm sections, and emphasis on solo improvisation — highlight its "revolutionary" nature. In contrast, those who argue for the latter view assert that this music had evolved out of the after-hours experimentation of impromtu combos and jam sessions that had been in existence for several years. Social, cultural, and economic realities also influenced the creation of this new style.

Regardless of which side of this debate one falls on, there is no disputing the fact that the two most important progenitors of the style that was to become known as "bebop" were trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and alto saxophonist Charlie Parker. Though they came from vastly different musical backgrounds, they met while both were members of the Earl Hines Orchestra and were inseparable on the after-hours club scene. Each possessed amazing ability on his respective instrument, allowing them to develop this new style of jazz by the middle of the 1940s.

"Salt Peanuts" is a Gillespie composition that uses AABA form and is further based on a familiar chord progression, namely the progression to Gershwin's famous "I Got Rhythm." So frequently has this famous song been used as the basis for new melodies that jazz musicians now refer to "rhythm changes" to indicate a tune built on this progression of chords. But this tune also reveals Gillespie's sense of humor, and this recording demonstrates his and Parker's prodigious technique on their instruments as well as a number of other characteristics of the bebop style that, in May of 1945, was still evolving.

Dizzy Gillespie and His All-Stars: Gillespie (trumpet, vocal); Charlie Parker (alto saxophone); Al Haig (piano); Curley Russell (bass); Sid Catlett (drums)

Recorded in New York, May 11, 1945

The text of this Listening Guide comes from Ted Buehrer's "How to Listen to and Appreciate Jazz."

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